Recently I was looking at some photos in one of my digital albums with my son. As we navigated toward a specific era in our history together, I realized something was missing: photos of me and my baby bump.
I couldn’t imagine I would ever have regrets from pregnancy and here was a huge one I could never repair. I was filled with so much shame. But there’s nothing I can do to fix it short of constructing a time machine and mastering a flux capacitor.
I spent years trying to become a mother so you would think that when I finally (FINALLY) achieved a viable pregnancy, I would relish and document every part of it. I have words, lots and lots of words. A possible abundance of words. What is missing is any real photograph of me pregnant.
There are a couple of random “bump” photos I attempted, but they are oddly framed, at bizarre angles, and my head is not visible in any of them. If I didn’t recognize the dress I was wearing and the dining room table I was standing next to, who’s to say the person in the photo is even me?
There are two photos of me from my baby shower, an awkward event that happened a few days after my mother unexpectedly lost her job. When I see one photo, I immediately see the panic reflected in my face. The other photo I instantly photoshopped myself into Jabba the Hutt. (True story.)
For whatever reason, I convinced myself that I would never want to see images of myself in pregnancy shape or form again. Being plus-sized even before I became pregnant, I was incredibly well-versed in body hating. However, denying any images of myself for almost nine months of pregnancy didn’t achieve anything other than deep sadness and a lot of holes in reflection.
If I could go back, I would. In my fantasy do-over, I would ask friends to help me find a photographer who specialized in plus-sized maternity photography. (If there isn’t such a thing, will someone PLEASE get on that and make it happen!?) I would meet with this photographer as often as I could afford: in my home, at the OB, in the backyard, at the beach near the home we lived in at the time.
My grandmother, Millie, was a large part of my pregnancy story, as she accompanied me to every doctor’s appointment and was there the day I found out I was having a boy. When I put down the camera and neglected to document the experience through photos, I also, inadvertently, missed out on documenting some precious moments with Millie.
This photographic punishment has carried over into motherhood as well. I have 11 million photos of my son when he was a newborn. As the years progressed, the number of photos I would take every moment of every day tapered off, but what remained constant was the lack of consistent photographic proof that my son actually had a mother.
A few years ago Allison Tate wrote a piece for The Huffington Post that I think resonated with many of us. Tate confessed that she often avoids having her picture taken, but she is working on trying to fix that:
“I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.”
Pretty much 99.5 percent of the photos I have of my son and myself are selfies taken from my iPhone. I don’t have many, but I push myself to have more.
What I would love, truly love, would be to have a casual portrait of us, something from our everyday life, like of us eating breakfast together every morning or running around the playground every afternoon. I’m sure I could hand a camera over to my mother and ask her to take some photos, but, and this is where it gets messy, letting go of control is hard for me. Accepting that I may not love the way I look captured on film is not something I have been very good at and is probably the origin of why there are so few photos to begin with.
I’ll never be able to restore what I now feel is missing from my pregnancy experience. What I CAN do is work to get over the self-esteem issues that are preventing me now, today, from having my photo taken with my son.
Image Credit: Dresden ShumakerMore On